According to this eye-opening article that we recently discovered on the website called HealthDay, there’s a new study out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that should grab the attention of every senior and every caregiver. The CDC has just examined recent statistics on the number of seniors who suffer from falls every year, and the price tag – financial, physical and emotional – is truly staggering.
“Falls by older Americans have devastating medical and economic consequences, reaching $50 billion a year,” says HealthDay. The lead researcher on the recently-released CDC study calls falls “a common, costly and growing public health problem,” one that will only get worse as today’s baby boomers continue to age. Payments for non-fatal falls in the most recent year in which data is available – 2015 – cost the Medicare system almost $29 billion and Medicaid nearly $9 billion, with about $12 billion more paid out by private insurers. Falls affect about three in ten of all American adults 65 and older every year.
But the dollar costs tell only part of the story. One New York geriatrician termed these mishaps “individually devastating.” As the HealthDay article puts it, “Falls can trigger the start of a senior’s decline, leading to more care, and often a stay in a nursing home or long-term care center.” Tragically, the Injuries that result from falls “are also linked to loss of function and independence and to death.” This downward spiral resulting from a fall affects both women (who doctors say tend to suffer hip fractures) and men (more likely to incur head injuries). “With about 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, more falls are likely, with ever rising costs,” HealthDay reports.
The survey showed that older, lower-income Caucasian women are the ones most commonly hospitalized as the result of a fall, but in fact any senior can be vulnerable. With the increase in the 65-plus population, HealthDay states, the numbers could become truly frightening: in 2014 experts estimate the number of falls at about 29 million per year, but that number could mushroom to around 49 million by 2030, with the costs skyrocketing proportionately.
If you’re a caregiver or someone who is involved in the life of a senior you care about, you need to know, as the HealthDay article emphasizes, that falls are not inevitable. Various surveys by the CDC and others have evaluated proactive programs designed to reduce the number of falls, and these have been shown to have positive results, cutting the number of incidents by about 24 percent. If these programs were implemented more widely the result could be billions of healthcare dollars saved, not to mention millions of seniors living longer and healthier lives. Whether your loved one lives alone or in a senior community, HealthDay suggests you have their doctor assess their likelihood of falling and work with patients and family to lower the risk. Evaluate medications, especially the kind that can cause dizziness, such as prescriptions for blood pressure and diabetes. This is one of the reasons why we at AgingOptions recommend that seniors use the services of a geriatrician to coordinate their health care, because these professionals are trained to deal positively and thoroughly with the medical needs of older patients.
(If you would like a referral to a geriatric physician in your area, please contact us at AgingOptions and we will gladly provide the information you need.)
Here are a few more helpful ideas from HealthDay that can make your loved one less prone to falls.
- If a senior’s health permits, age-appropriate exercise can be a big help. It not only builds muscle, but exercise can also improve balance and build confidence. (Check with your loved one’s physician before beginning a new exercise regimen.)
- Make certain your loved one has regular exams for vision and hearing. The right glasses and hearing aids can help make falls less likely.
- Make your loved one’s home less hazardous by getting rid of tripping hazards and installing better, brighter lighting. Stairs need proper railings and bathrooms should have grab bars professionally installed. Your loved one may want to age in place, but you may have to be the one to help make certain living at home is the safe choice.
- For more tips on preventing falls the National Council on Aging offers some excellent ideas.
What about tips on retirement planning? You may be a caregiver watching out for the needs of someone else, but who will watch out for you in ten, twenty or thirty years? How will you make certain your assets are protected and that you can avoid being forced against your will into institutional care? Can you keep from becoming a burden to those you love? Where do you turn to set in place a comprehensive retirement plan so you can enjoy a joy-filled, purposeful and secure life as you age? These questions are precisely why we’re here. At AgingOptions our commitment is to help people just like you answer questions just like these. We specialize in a type of comprehensive retirement planning called LifePlanning, an approach in which all the vital aspects of retirement living – finances, legal affairs, medical coverage, housing choices, and family communication – mesh together seamlessly.
There’s a simple and enjoyable way to find out more about LifePlanning. Make plans now to join Rajiv Nagaich at an upcoming LifePlanning Seminar. These free sessions will open your mind to the power of retirement planning in a way you’ve never experienced before. For details and registration, click here, or call us this week. Let us guide you into a brighter, more secure retirement future. Age on!
(originally reported at https://consumer.healthday.com)